Expo 2015: the link between health and food

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"Feeding the world, energy for the future": the motto of the upcoming Expo Milano 2015 directly explains the core issues of this big event. But it hides another global issue – health seems to be the unsaid common thread.

Generally speaking, the topic of nutrition, in Expo Milan 2015 and in its main scientific project, called Laboratorio Expo, is meant as the framework that includes three sub-topics: food, sustainable development and social security. But, in a larger picture, another common thread is health, which can be considered the basics and the goal for nutrition, at the same time.

Nutrition and health have a wide, complex relationship. First of all, in terms of nutritional epidemic problems: eight hundred million people are suffering from chronic hunger, two billions of people from malnutrition and one billion and a half from obesity.  Anyway, the nutritional problem does not deal only with food. Another interesting approach is the one about sustainability and social issues. For example, most of the health problems regarding women in the developing countries are linked with food – nutrition before and after pregnancy but also a nourishing nutrition in general.

Commonly, health problems are also social problems: since some years, a particular attention has been put on household air pollution, mainly from open fire or stoves fuelled by biomass. Illnesses related to this kind of pollution are directly linked with women rights and their social status. In many developing countries, women are confined in small places with a continuing running stove without air filters and they unintentionally expose their children to household air pollution. Over four million people die prematurely from illness linked with household air pollution and more than 50 percent of the death among children under five are caused by particulate matter soot (often pneumonia).

In order to fight against these health problems, many specialists say that the connection and cooperation between public health services and private or NGOs sector must be strengthened. The role of the public sector and health care NGOs is particularly relevant in both developed and developing countries, as the public funds for health are reducing worldwide: in five years they have been reduced by 0.4 percent on the total World GDP, from 6.4 percent to 6 percent. Moreover, public sector can provide the wide and general view, namely policies, and NGOSs their knowledge about local environment and societal needs.

Given these figures, it is absolutely clear that health is one of the main issues to be discussed during the upcoming Expo Milano 2015. There are many events, past and upcoming, that had seen health in the core of the debate. Most of them are supported and sponsored by the European Commission and Laboratorio Expo. Two of them will take place in few months. On May 13th, 2015 the European Commission (EC) Pavilion at the Expo will host a debate on Healthy diet for a healthy life managed by JPI HDHL together with JPI FACCE, with the goal of discussing on how to face "the impact of climate change on providing our future population with a sustainable food supply that has the nutritional requirements to ensure a healthy population".

Two days later, on May 15th, the EC Pavilion will host the final conference of EURODISH, a 3 years Seventh Framework program that explored the ways to strengthen European research for public health nutrition strategies across Europe. More events will be revealed in the next months.

Giacomo Destro is currently working as science communicator at Laboratorio Expo, mainly focusing on multimedia and new media outputs.

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